Scientists have uncovered evidence of hundreds of feet of ice underneath the surface of the Red Planet.
Not only did Mars once have water covering much of its surface eons ago, it is still there, trapped in the form of ice underneath the Martian soil. That is the conclusion of a new study that indicates there may be layers of ice 300 feet thick in some place at areas of the Red Planet known as “scarps,” which are steep banks or slopes.
These scarps have a blue-black hue, which scientists think may betray the presence of thick ice based on an an examination of the data. It would be a tremendous find, as it would not only expand our understanding of Mars, but also provide new leads in the search for life and provide a potentially necessary resource for a manned mission to the planet.
Scientists examined a total of eight of these scarps. Scientists have long known that there is water somewhere on the planet, but have come up with numerous theories on where it all went.
“Erosion on Mars is exposing deposits of water ice, starting at depths as shallow as one to two meters below the surface and extending 100 meters or more,” reads a statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The ice is a critical target for science and exploration: it affects modern geomorphology, is expected to preserve a record of climate history, influences the planet’s habitability, and may be a potential resource for future exploration. Whilst water ice is known to be present in some locations on Mars, many questions remain about its layering, thickness, purity, and extent.
“Now, Colin Dundas and colleagues have pinpointed eight locations, using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), where steep, pole-facing slopes created by erosion expose substantial quantities of sub-surface ice,” the statement continues. “The fractures and steep angles indicate that the ice is cohesive and strong, the authors say. What’s more, bands and variations in color suggest that the ice contains distinct layers, which could be used to understand changes in Mars’ climate over time (the ice sheets themselves likely formed as snow accumulated over time).”